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The Smark Henry RAW Review (4/15/19): The Roster Changes Experience



Ah, the Superstar Shake-up! I will still refer to it sometimes as the WWE Draft Lottery, and I will most likely refer to each new acquisition as having been drafted, but some things you just can't outgrow. Like renaming a perfectly named tag team as something completely weird. We'll get to that later. Most of the new faces seem pretty awesome, though, and some storyline progress also seems awesome, but only time will tell if it truly is.


Speaking of time, it seems Natalya is past hers. While it was cool watching Natalya and RAW & SmackDown Women's Champion Becky Lynch share the ring in competitive fashion, Lacey Evans ultimately stole the spotlight by beating Natalya clean with a really great moonsault to become Lynch's new and official number one contender—at least until someone on SmackDown challenges her for the SmackDown Women's Championship. Ah, the price of greatness.

Natalya's promo was a bit... monotonous, though, so I wasn't really into it, and I thought the crowd agreed with me. I'm just really glad that they've finally made up their minds on what to do with Lacey. That line about currying favor might be a bit off-putting, but considering that her finisher is called the Women's Right and that she is a heel, that might've been exactly the point. Also, that southern drawl is part of her heel package, right? Just me?

The match in itself was pretty decent. With the exception of Evans' moonsault that was fun to look at, this was mostly okay in-ring action. While Lacey as the next contender isn't exactly the appropriate follow-up to Becky's intense competition with Charlotte Flair and Ronda Rousey, I thought this made for an interesting season opener. Consider the WWE and its storylines as any other series and WrestleMania would be its programming's season finale. Lacey serves as a new character and a new challenge for the protagonist Becky is playing, one that she will no doubt conquer before this new season's finale. Sasha Banks can play antagonist in the mid-season cliffhanger later, if Banks is still with the WWE by that point.


The War Raiders, Rowe and Hanson, getting called up was great. They're really fun wrestlers to watch and their addition to RAW's tag team division will no doubt—wait, what? They've changed names? They're now Erik and Ivar, the Viking Experience? What in Thor's name?!

Clearly, I am not a fan of the new name and the name change, and I might not be the only one. Sources indicate that the reason for the change was because someone—and you know who that someone is—doesn't like the word "war" incorporated in WWE programming. I'm not sure Michael Cole got the memo, though, or Ember Moon for that matter, because they're still calling her the WAR Goddess. Weird. 

Of all the other more subtle names they could come up with, they went with the one that's super long and sounds like an amusement park ride. That doesn't really jive with this tag team's whole barbaric and savage characters. That said, maybe it'll grow on us. That's a hard maybe, though.

Aside from the War—I mean, the Viking Experience, the Usos have also joined RAW's tag division, which is also great, unless the RAW tag division curse is real, in which case, have fun getting little to no effort from creative. Either of these two new additions, I think, would most likely take the titles from Hawkins and Ryder sooner than later.

Oh, and by Usos, I mean the actual Usos, not Chad Gable and Bobby Roode. Get it? WWE's production crew gets it, and someone from there will probably get yelled at for that name card gaffe. Oof.


I know some people hate Baron Corbin, Bobby Lashley, and Drew McIntyre as a team—because I do—but their association here is the most logical one. I'm not entirely sure why they'd be okay with facing a version of the Shield with Vacant replacing Dean Ambrose after they've already been beaten by the actual Shield that one time, but whatever. The more important takeaway from the main event is that AJ Styles is now on RAW, replacing Vacant as Seth and Roman's mystery tag team partner in the main event.

Watching Roman take the beating for most of the match is a bit odd for me. I guess I've just been used to seeing him get the hot tag and the decisive finish in all the matches he's had. Strangely, his return from beating leukemia could've been done better. It was a natural boost to his babyface value but one that WWE couldn't capitalize on. To be fair, Seth Rollins just unseated Brock Lesnar as Universal Champion and this was AJ Styles' debut/return to RAW, so it fell on Reigns to be the heels' babyface punching bag in this match.

I thought the finish was great, though, with all three men hitting their respective finishers on Lashley and AJ getting the pin. Corbin should've been the one to eat the pin here, but I guess he has momentum from retiring Kurt Angle at WrestleMania on his side? Ugh.

RAW REVIEW: RAW was drowning in major talent upgrades after this week's Superstar Shake-up, getting AJ Styles, Andrade, and The Usos to name a few. The whole Viking Experience renaming thing was a bit off-putting. The name doesn't really fit the tag team's overall intensity in terms of in-ring action or even just their presence. It sounds more like a corporate slogan or title than anything. Still, I'm looking forward to a lot of the new possibilities the new faces will be bringing to the show.  I'm giving this week's RAW a B for "Barbarians are now barbecue stands."  

Quick Hitters:

  • The Miz attacking Shane McMahon during the opening segment that also featured Stephanie McMahon and a lot of Canadian boos provided continuity that I very much appreciated. With Miz moving to RAW, it wasn't quite the ending I'd have liked for that feud but it was really all we could get. If anything, it continues Shane's heel role while giving Miz a fresh face start. It was a bit awkward, though, when I realized Miz accidentally made himself bleed with the steel chair he used to attack Shane. At least I think that was accidental. Man, Shane must really be the BEST in the WOOOOOOOORLD to be able to do that.  
  • Cedric Alexander moving to RAW is a perfect fit, as I've always thought he was obviously too big for the whole 205 Live weight class gimmick just like Buddy Murphy, who should've had one of his challengers call his reign out during their feud. Or maybe someone did and I missed that because 205 Live needs a better name. Cruiserweight Experience maybe?
  • Andrade and Zelina Vega were amazing acquisitions for RAW and they were able to show everyone here why they're really great at what they do. Having Andrade cut a promo in Spanish might confuse people who can't speak the language, but no one can deny that the passion and intensity he had during that promo was superb. Vega's interference protected Intercontinental Champion Finn the Human in defeat while taking nothing away from Andrade's excellent in-ring skills. If this was for the title, Andrade should've still won to catapult him into a place his talent deserves.
  • Elias continues to just ask to be interrupted, and this time, he was interrupted by none other than Rey Mysterio who's now part of RAW. Booyaka booyaka! Lars Sullivan wasn't a fan, though, and destroyed Mysterio with the Freak Accident. Lars versus Rey could be a great first feud for the big man, as Mysterio works really well as the underdog fighting a bigger man, which is mostly the story for his entire career.
  • Sami Zayn was very impressive with his heel promo during A Moment of Bliss with Alexa Bliss. This was his home crowd and he managed to turn his cheers into boos, upping his heel work to an excellent degree. I sure can relate to him. 
  • Naomi joins The Usos in moving to RAW, getting a win alongside Bayley over the WWE Women's Tag Team Champions The IIconics. This was a weird choice because I'm not quite sure Naomi will be able to capitalize on the non-title win. I don't think she'll really replace Sasha Banks and challenge for the titles with Bayley. If anything, both she and Bayley are going to become singles competitors and quite possibly contenders for the women's singles titles.
  • I did not like Braun Strowman squashing EC3, not even with the thought that either of them would be leaving RAW for SmackDown. I'm not a big EC3 fan but he deserves more than this. Couldn't Braun just squash some local talent? It's not like he desperately needs a boost for an upcoming title match or something. They should've just let EC3 stay in NXT for a while so he could grow instead of doing... whatever this was. This was just dumb.
  • Eric Young getting drafted to RAW without SAnitY is a little weird but I'll probably get used to it because I've been conditioned to tolerate crap. I'm a little curious what they'd do with Young, however, because he's always been captivating for my eyeballs. They'll probably just turn him into the next Curt Hawkins before he reunited with Zack Ryder and became tag champs, though.
  • The Riott Squad are getting split apart, aren't they? Wow. What a waste of a faction. Maybe they'll just get drafted to SmackDown where they'll be better utilized as a fearsome group. Oh, wait, that was where SAnitY was from. Crap.
Images from WWE


*****

Jofer Serapio (@ShawarmaJoereviews WWE RAW for Smark Henry. He has been an avid professional wrestling fan since grade school. These reviews are as close to professional wrestling as he can get. The Viking Experience sounds like a weird boat ride in an amusement park.

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